The last time I had a sloppy joe, I was still watching the television series Alf, playing with GI Joes, and riding my bike without shoes out on the gravel trails of Fort Polk, Louisiana. I was such a picky eater growing up and, as the doctor’s growth charts alerted my mother, slightly underweight. Eating wasn’t my favorite pastime. I would much rather have ridden my bike or played in the fields.
My parents used many tricks to get me to eat. Some of them were bribes, which I think every parent tries. A lot of them were disguising my food as something else. My dad tried the “Close your eyes and you’ll get a big surprise” approach, but that only worked a few times. Sometimes they just flat out gave me what I wanted. I had the metabolism of a gazelle at that point in my life, so why not let me eat a Manwich Sloppy Joe?
Fast forward, many, many years and I am a vegetarian and no longer have the gazelle metabolism. My rendition of a sloppy joe uses tempeh, which is very hearty and has a nice grain like texture, savory veggies and toppings, a sweet tomato drizzle, and a sliced pita bread. Enjoy!
FILLING: 8 oz (1 package) chopped tempeh, half an onion, 1 large pepper or two small peppers, 4 minced garlic cloves, handful of cherry tomatoes, and a pinch of salt.
1. Put a skillet/frying pan over medium heat. Add olive olive oil and peppers. Sauté and let them soften for 5 minutes.
2. Add the chopped tempeh to the skillet (a trick to get the tempeh extra brown is to add a little soy sauce while sautéeing).
3. After the tempeh has started to brown, add the garlic, tomatoes, onions, and a pinch of salt. Cook until everything is wilted.
SAUCE: 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper & 1/2 cup water.
1. In a sauce pan, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, salt, chili powder, black pepper & water.
2. After the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat. Let it reduce for 5 minutes and remove from the burner.
OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: Chopped scallions, olives, sour cream & pita bread.
Toast the pita bread and carefully cut it in half from the side. You can add whatever toppings you like. If you want it more traditional, you can stick with cheddar cheese and just the sauce. I, on the other hand, enjoy savory, so I topped mine with the sweet tomato sauce mixture, olives, scallions, and sour cream.
I prefer to have the tomato sauce as a drizzle and not completely submerge the tempeh and veggies. That way I get to see all the healthy veggies I am about to eat.
Looking at all these pictures makes me want to get a second helping. I think I will.